The Power of Data: Venture Capitalist Discusses Emerging Technologies in Engineering and Construction

January 3, 2019 | 4 minute read
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In Part I of our interview with venture capitalist Jesse Devitte, co-founder, Building Ventures and Borealis Ventures, Jesse shared his professional history, the state of innovation in E&C, and the challenges the industry is facing.

In Part II, Jesse continues his discussion with Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Officer Burcin Kaplanoglu, addressing emerging technologies that have either been adopted or are gaining traction in the industry as well as how companies are leveraging data.

BK: You mentioned the culture of innovation. How do you think companies can best foster this across their organization?

JD: It’s a commitment at an executive level and an educational investment across the board within it. This includes supporting the risk of taking on projects and their willingness to try something.

Many of our investors are from the industry and from companies where we see executive-led encouragement to pilot and try new technology at its best.

As a first step though, it’s very hard for a startup to convince one of these companies to pilot something. It’s up to the company to decide if it’s willing to take that time, make that investment, and assume some risk.

BK: What emerging technologies do you see as being embraced right now or getting traction?  

JK: This is still an industry that’s building assets - which takes years to build and lasts for decades. The first order of business usually is solving for pain and integrating existing solutions.

Technology really benefits customers and obviously businesses. We need to leverage this in both directions - the upfront scheduling as well as the performance and progress.

Imagine, design, build, construct, and improve
We have a vision of: “design, build, construct, and then improve”. Imagine a data flow -  a data swoosh that flows through all of those. This is the key to getting the systems used in those communicating and sharing data. That’s really what it's all about.  

I don't want to be dismissive of some of the more powerful technologies. There are game changing potential technologies in A.R., in V.R., blockchain, A.I., and many other areas.

As an investor, I see them in the early chapters (“early innings” in a baseball analogy). Many of these leading-edge customers are trying these technologies. However, the deployment of them—and even the business models that support the vendors who supply them and understand their real use—is still in development.  

This industry is moving faster than ever before. There’s outside capital and disruption coming in to really drive this and put more pressure on it than ever before.  

You’ll see more people increasingly investing in reality capture, A.R., V.R., and some of the more exciting technology. When these technologies find their way into projects, and as people understand the payback, then businesses can be built to meet that need.  

BK: That ties to what you mentioned about A.I. and machine learning. What do you see in terms of the shorter and longer-term value of these technologies?

JK: We're on a journey.

For example, we're investing in a company who are doing an amazing job helping general contractors understand their images on a construction site and the intelligence about those images.

But realistically we're on a journey. There's not a refined business model yet. Everyone is still learning the real value of being able to use those images. This is a good case study in terms of where the industry is.  

Customers want to figure out how they can become more predictive. Fortunately, AEC technologies are also becoming more predictive. This is a game changer.

I remember tipping point moments in this industry where things like clash detection  gained steam and began to change this industry.   

We’re right on the edge of using many of these exciting frontier technologies to deliver more predictability and predictive developments in the future. That’s the real potential of machine learning and A.I.

BK: One challenge we have is the data; we either have lots of it or we don’t know what to do with it. It’s great to see companies using these technologies to collect that baseline. If you don’t have that baseline, it’s hard to create it.

JD: As an investor, we are less interested in companies that create data now and more interested in companies that are going to provide the analytics for data and make it useful information.

BK: You mentioned that our goal is to have predictable outcomes, including humans understanding data. But the challenge for machine learning is capturing and defining that predictable outcome. We also believe that these technologies are significant.

JD: Yes. Our mission as investors– if we can every achieve it—is perfect information. If we could predict the future, we would know exactly who to give how much money to and when - imagine that! Likewise customers in this industry are trying to get as far down the continuum as they can because building is an imperfect mission – it’s the nature of it.

Building is challenging and different. It’s also why technology and the use of data can make such a major difference. It’s an exciting time. That's why our mission is to support the digital transformation for a better built world.

Discover how Oracle Construction and Engineering is helping power project success for asset-intensive industries.

Check out more innovative ideas emerging in construction and engineering in our “Navigating the Future of Projects” report from Oracle Industry Connect.

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Corie Cheeseman

Corie Cheeseman is a senior content marketing manager for Oracle Construction and Engineering.

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